Avoiding Infections

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Avoiding Infections
Fever:
This is not an infection itself, but the common result of one. It's the body's way of fighting illness. The problem is that abnormally high body temperatures also pose a risk to the fetus, including organ damage and miscarriage. Practice the obvious: Stay clear of people you know to be sick and wash your hands often, especially during flu season. Always alert your caregiver when you develop a fever above 102 degrees or are feverish for more than 24 hours; a high fever is not something to be "toughed out." Dress lightly and try a lukewarm bath or cool compresses. If you're told to take acetaminophen, do - this medication, by bringing the fever down, will help your baby, not harm it.
Rubella (German measles)
If contracted in early pregnancy by someone who hasn't already had it, rubella can damage the developing baby's brain, heart, eyes, ears, and skin. Symptoms in the mother include a rash and swollen lymph glands plus fever, nausea, and vomiting - but some cases are relatively symptom free. Fortunately, up to 90 percent of all mother-to-be are immune to rubella by having had the disease or having been vaccinated against it, usually in childhood. If you're not sure whether you are immune, tell your doctor. A blood test called the rubella antibody titer, conducted at the first trimester (after that, the risk of congenital malformations is minimal). If a mother-to-be who is not immune to rubella is exposed during the first month of pregnancy, there is a 50 percent chance of birth defects in the baby and a 90 percent chance of spontaneous abortion. Some women exposed this early elect not to continue the pregnancy, or choose to undergo generic counseling. By the third month, the odds drop to 1 in 10 that a baby born to an exposed, non-immune mother will be affected. Blood tests can confirm whether you have actually contracted the disease. You can't be inoculated during pregnancy because the vaccine contains a live virus, which might harm the fetus. But to prevent problems in future pregnancies, a mother who is not immune should be vaccinated soon after delivery.
Chicken pox
Both is forms, varicella (chicken pox) and herpes zoster (shingles), can cause birth defects in the child of a mother not previously exposed. In addition, a case of chicken pox tends to be more severe in adults, and there is a risk of complications such as pneumonia. The riskiest time to get chicken pox is before the 15th week or within a week of delivery (When the infection can be passed to the fetus, who could be born with it). If you're not already immune, you can be immunized during pregnancy; but it's best to stay clear of people with this highly contagious disease.
Herpes simplex
This virus causes fluid-filled blisters around the genitals (though they can also appear elsewhere on the body), which can result in painful urination. It's caused by intercourse with someone who has active herpes, and the symptoms appear about 3 days to 2 weeks later. If the mother has active lesions when she delivers, the virus can be passed to the baby, jeopardizing its life. But a Cesarean delivery, rather than a vaginal one, would circumvent the problem. Therefore, if you or your partner think you may have ever has herpes, don't worry, but let your doctor know so you can be monitored just in case. Recurrent herpes is not generally dangerous to the baby except at delivery.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
This hard-to-detect virus can be transmitted by saliva, blood, or sexual contact. It can be symptomless, or you may experience fever, swollen lymph glands, and a sore throat. CMV is common, though rarely contracted during pregnancy. Women who do catch the virus, however, are likely to pass it to the fetus, who then risks developing jaundice or problems with hearing and learning. The best prevention is to avoid contact with known infected people and - as with avoiding all viruses - to wash your hands frequently.
Toxoplasmosis
This infection, caused by a parasite that lives in cats and is also found in raw meats, can pose a threat when a woman is exposed for the first time during pregnancy. The fetus can be affected in ways ranging from premature birth or low birth weight to serious central nervous system defect, even still-birth. A blood test can determine if you've been infected, but not when.